Lakers unable to get deals done before NBA trading deadline

first_imgThe Lakers usually emerge from the trade deadline with an intact roster geared for a championship run or with a significant move destined to accelerate the rebuilding process.This season, neither scenario happened.The only move the Lakers made leading into the NBA’s trade deadline entailed sending Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for young, seldom-used shooting guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, a deal that saved the Lakers $4 million in combined salary and luxury taxes.Pau Gasol survived another trade scenario. Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman are also here. But the Lakers (18-36) enter tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics (19-36) at Staples Center with mostly the same roster that has spiraled into a tie with the Sacramento Kings for last place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Lakers haven’t offered a timetable on when Kobe Bryant will return from a fractured left leg, while Kupchak added “we’re not going to push him to get back.”Kupchak said the Lakers will defer to Steve Nash on whether he will play out the last year of his contract next season, worth $9.8 million, after experiencing constant nerve irritation in his back. Kupchak also guessed Lakers forward Nick Young will opt out of his player option.“Next year we’re going to have Kobe, who is healthy,” Kupchak said. “We will have a good draft choice and we’ll have dollars to spend on free agents.”The Lakers aren’t expected to pursue possible high-level free agents this offseason, including Miami’s LeBron James (unrealistic) and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (not interested). The potential candidates for the 2015 class include Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Boston’s Rajon Rondo, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Memphis’ Marc Gasol.Bryant’s two-year, $48.5 million extension through the 2015-16 season allows the Lakers enough money to secure one high-level free agent in the next two years.“It may take more than one year to build,” Kupchak said. “Just because we have a lot of money this summer, doesn’t mean we’ll spend it all. We’ll spend it wisely.”Magic Johnson recently said he’s asked Kupchak to help out with free agency recruiting efforts. Johnson sold his 4.5 percent ownership stake with the Lakers in 2010, but remains an unpaid vice president with the team.“Hopefully, Earvin’s looking for a second baseman,” Kupchak joked, referring to Johnson’s involvement with the Dodgers’ ownership group. “He’s always been quick to call and encourage when he was our vice president for so many years … I have called on him from time to time to help me, whether it’s, ‘I want to run something past you, can you meet with a player and make a phone call for me.’ Even though he’s working for the Dodgers now, that has not changed.”Still, Johnson has criticized the Lakers plenty, ranging from the hiring of coach Mike D’Antoni last year over Phil Jackson to vice president of player personnel Jim Buss.“It comes from the heart,” Kupchak said. “It’s not like there’s some agenda there that he’s trying to accomplish something.”Kupchak also downplayed the transition period a year after the passing of the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Kupchak compared the Lakers’ recent troubles to when the team missed the playoffs in the 2004-05 season one year after trading Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. Four years later, the Lakers won an NBA title. “It’s natural when you lose an owner like that with Dr. Buss for people to say what’s going on,” Kupchak said. “But you have to trust the organization. Everyone is on the same page. We have a plan. I can’t guarantee you can execute a plan in six months, 12 months or 18 months. But we’re well-positioned and the organization has chosen to follow Dr. Buss’ legacy, which is to win championships.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img The Lakers also failed to collect any additional draft picks for this year’s star-studded class or fall under the luxury tax threshold.“Maybe once every 10 years, or maybe once every 15 years, you might have a bad year,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “Our hope and desire is that next year will be a lot better than this year, and we certainly have the tools to begin the process.”Kupchak attributed the Lakers’ failure to grab a draft pick as a product of teams holding onto picks for this year’s star-studded draft. The Lakers’ payroll remains at $76.9 million and the luxury tax threshold stays at $71.7 million. That leaves the Lakers vulnerable to the repeater tax, a penalty that applies to teams that spend over the luxury tax in four of five seasons since the NBA’s new labor deal was constructed in 2011.But Kupchak said “the organization is not motivated by saving a certain number of dollars.”Several teams, including the Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers, expressed interest in Gasol. But the Lakers were intent on acquiring draft picks for Gasol’s expiring $19.3 million contract. The Lakers talked with Brooklyn, Phoenix, Cleveland and Dallas about trading Hill, but they couldn’t attract any draft picks in that offer, either.last_img